A farm visit to Oh Chin Huat’s hydroponics farm would not be complete without bringing home their DIY hydroponics starter kit to grow some edible plants at home. I got hold of their DIY hydroponics starter after the hydroponics farm tour. Kang Kong seeds were given because they say it is easy to grow and maintain the plants. True enough, the seeds actually germinated within three to five days!
In short, hydroponics is a soil-less method of growing plants using nutrient solutions. It is dubbed to be an advantageous method over the traditional method of growing in soil as it saves space and water can be easily conserved by reusing the system water. However, it does have its disadvantages such as the high maintenance cost, vulnerability to power outages and etc. Nonetheless, it’s one of the fuss-free method of planting especially where space is a constraint.
What’s in the DIY hydroponics starter kit?
– 24-cubed sponge
– 2 net pots
– 1 packet of leca
– 1 packet of seeds
– 1 set of nutrient solution (2 bottles)
– 1 small measuring cup
– Instruction sheet
In addition to this starter kit, you would need to prepare one container to germinate the seeds and another plastic container or McFlurry cup for the seedling to grow into an adult plant.
See those slits in the sponge? There should be 24 slots and you can basically place about 2 seeds into each cube.
I am using Kang Kong seeds which are as big as green beans.
Embed the seeds into the sponge and then soak the sponge in a large rectangular ice-cream tub.
Because the sponge has air trapped in the spaces within it, you will need to push the sponge into the water to squeeze out the air. You will notice some air bubbles forming in the water as you are pushing the sponge downwards with some pressure.
See those air bubbles rising up? The sponge should be left partially submerge in water.
After soaking the sponge in water, you can then prepare the nutrient solution which has to be diluted with water. The dilution ratio is 5ml of each nutrient solution to 1 litre of water. You can use the measuring cup to measure the amount of solution required.
Fill up the tub with nutrient solution until the sponge is partially submerged in water. As the seeds soaked up the water during the germination stage, you may need to continue adding more nutrient solution into the tub each day.
Within three to 5 days, you will start to see these tiny plants emerging out from the seed coat.
Once its third leaf has emerged, you can start to transplant the seedlings over to the net pots.
There are several ways of preparing the pot for the plants to grow. You need to ensure that that the net pot can fit into the container and the solution in the container has to be covered. This would prevent the solution from evaporating first and it also prevents the breeding of mosquitoes.
Look at those long and tiny roots growing through the sponge!
Open up a packet of leca or (lightweight expanded clay aggregate) as you will be using them as a medium to help position the plant and support it as well as to prevent the breeding of the mosquitoes.
Dislodge one sponge cube with the seedling and place it into the net pots then fill it up with leca. Fill the container with nutrient solution till the sponge is in contact with the nutrient solution. Remember to change the nutrient solution once every week to prevent algae growth.
So what do you do with the rest of the seedling? You can continue to transplant them into smaller containers or plant them in soil. You could also do a simple experiment to see if plants grow faster in soil or in nutrient solution. I transfer the remaining seedlings into the soil since I’ve some potted plants at home and they were empty pots to be filled up.
Watch it grow and then harvest it! It’s a great activity for kids to watch and learn too.